Date: Friday, January 28, 2000 8:05 AMDoug McLean World Tour 1999-2000Back Home Next
Subject: Jan. 9 - 11, 2000: Campinas, Brazil
Current Date/Location: Still Thursday, Jan 27, 2000 in Florianopolis, Brazil...big day online for me here...only 6Reals per hour...what the heck...and you can only spend soooooo many days on the lovely beaches with the Brazillians before you need a day infront of the computer to relax...hee
Current Itinerary: Bus to Sao Paulo tonight...connect to Rio tomorrow...will be in Rio for the weekend. Then Minas Gerias and Brazilia.Carnival Itinerary: Still ontarget for Salvador for Carnival...although the
weekends befor it, I am thinking about Recifre, Olinda, or Fortaleza...we´ll see...
Jan 9, 2000 (Sun):
Not exactly sure where this day started and the other one ended...did not get any sleep whatsoever! Arrived back at the hostel near 5:30 am from the Manguiera Samba School. I packed my backpack and headed to the bus station with Karen from Norway. She had to go to Sao Paulo to catch her flight back
to Norway...and I had to go to Sao Paulo to catch a bus to Campinas, so we went together on the same bus. It was a very nice ride, and we talked at length about lots of things...I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation, and was surprised to be be disappointed that the bus ride was not longer (although,
I guess 6 hours was long enough)...we arrived into Sao Paulo all too soon. Bid Karen goodbye and caught the first bus to Campinas.
Arrived in Campinas off the bus, and was picked up by Raquel...who I met for the first time. OK...let me explain...Raquel is a friend of a friend of mine, Sherry. When I was leaving the USA, my friend Sherry said that if I was near Sao Paulo, I should go visit her friend Raquel...so I figured, what the heck! So I had e-mailed Raquel who said it would be fine to visit...so here I am...meeting Raquel for the first time. We went to her house and I met the entire family (Mother, Father, and sisters (Valeria and Juliana)).
This provided a good opportunity for me to practice my poor Portuguese/Spanish (Portunol as the Brazillians say) on them...Raquel and Valeria speak good English...but I was left to utilize my limited language skills on the rest. I found out that Valeria works at IBM...I mentioned that my father worked for IBM for 30 years and had retired. They seemed impressed that I had gone to visit the Manguiera School of Samba the night before...and acknowledged that I must be tired...they gave me a room Raquel's)...which was lovely...my own room!!! The plan was that I would nap for a little while and then we would go out on the town. But, I guess they saw how hard I was sleeping (like an absolute log...I had not gotten almost any sleep in the past 48 hours...and I had practically passed out before my head hit the pillow...it certainly didn´t take long for me to go to sleep.), they didn't wake me. I slept from 7pm until 10am next morning...ahhhh...
Jan 10, 2000 (Mon)
I woke at 10am...again, ahhhhh...and was informed that my day was already planned...Valeria would take me to IBM for a while to tour the plant...I was stunned...I had only visited IBM a couple of times in the USA and only during "Family Days". But anyway, she picked me up at 10:30 and we went to IBM.
Let me give some more information that I learned...Campinas is a huge University town...the University of Campinas is the 2nd largest in the country...and this "small town" of Campinas only consists of 1 million
people. It about 100 km from Sao Paulo and acts as the Silicon Valley of Brazil. For all of you American Airlines Folks...VCP Airport (Veracopus (NOTE...this is absolutely a butchered spelling of this...can´t remember the exact spelling...and don´t care...trying to block out all memories of trying to ship cargo into Brazil...a nightmare to say the least) is somewhere around Campinas and this is why most shippers want to go to VCP...it is in the heart of the Technological Center of Brazil. IBM and many other high-tech companies have factories around here.
Valeria is a lovely person who is an outside sales representative for IBM. She is often on the road travelling around the state of Sao Pàulo (Note: the city Sao Paulo is in the state of Sao Paulo) to call on various customers. We arrived at the IBM plant, I got my security badge, and we took the grand tour. Valeria explained that January is pretty much a down month for most companies in Brazil (and Argentina for that matter)...it is summer and most people take several weeks to a month off. I met numerous
folks who she works with...all were very nice and I had a great time. The highpoint was when she asked the head of the production line to give us a tour of the production line (now...let´s remember that I am merely a backpacker who is here for a few days...and I am being treated like the President of the Company (well...I guess that Gerstner would get treated a little better...but not much...these folks were going WAY out of their way for me...it was touching.)!
Anyway, the production line is actually being reconfigured to increase production...January is the best time to do this...as fewer orders are coming in right now. We discussed problems with shipping...and the
production manager concurred...Brazil certainly has many difficulties with shipping and it provides many challenges to his operations. And YES, he said that VCP is far and away preferred as a destination airport...hates GRU...don´t we all!
We had lunch (ofcourse mine was paid for by IBM...really, I was being treated like a king...go figure!) and then I was returned to the house and dropped off with Raquel. Raquel and I drove around town...I saw the two huge soccer/futball stadiums that are about 2 blocks apart. I asked why they didn´t just share a stadium...and was met with a blank stare...the two teams would never do this! The fans for one team would never willingly enter the stadium of another team (unless their favorite team was playing
ofcourse)...no kidding...soccer is huge here in Brazil...HUGE!
We also visited her parents at their shops. The mother and father are an absolutely cute couple who own and run adjoining shops...the father runs a camera shop and the mother runs a clothing boutique. What a great arrangement...they can both spend time together all day...watch the other´s store when necessary...and enjoy the benefits of owning a business without losing time together...wow...if only all things were this perfect!
Raquel and I visited UNICAMP (Univ of Campinas) (reputed to be one of the best, or the best University in Brazil) which is out of session right now...but today was conducting the second phase of entrance exams (the first phase had reduced the applicants from 45,000 to 15,000...and this second
phase exam would reduce it from 15,000 to around 3,000!!!). Raquel has been studying linguistics at UNICAMP for quite a while now...she received both her undergraduate degree, and her masters degree from UNICAMP and is not working on her Doctorate in Linguistics. Another thing that she does is to
evaluate one of the questions on the entrance exam! Now, this is a huge responsibility. The test consists of 12 or so questions that must be answered in essay form...Raquel is responsible evaluating one of these questions...there is also another person who also provides a second evaluation of the essay, and the scores are averaged. What this means is that starting tomorrow, Raquel will be responsible for evaluating how 15,000 hopeful students answered a particular essay question...and this must be
completed in the next 15 days...talk about Herculean Tasks! Anyway...her work would start tomorrow...today, we could relax a little and enjoy Campinas.
We went to visit a big city park in a part of the city (I forgot the name). We got a couple of ice-cold coconuts to drink as we walked, and started on the circuit around the large lake. In this park there were many normal ducks, swans and geese...but also there were free roaming capivaras (hard to describe...they are the size of large dogs and are funky looking...we saw them sitting in the water, along the water´s edge eating grass, and a group of young capivaras following their mother...the are really cute animals!). I have never seen this type of animal anywhere else...it was cool!
We went and picked up Raquel´s sister Juliana and one of her friends. We went to a bar to meet Valeria and one of her coworkers. We all sat on the patio of this bar for awhile talking...they were all very nice and were working on planning my entire trip for me...really...planning to take me to the beach, etc. (Now, some of these plans did not happen for one reason or another...but this type of thinking is very typical of Brazil...they want to do everything that they possibly can do to help or assist you...it is very nice of them.). Anyway, it started to rain...correction: The heavens opened up and it downpoured!!! We quickly moved inside and enjoyed the ambiance of the bar. One nice thing was that there was live music, but they
were not up on a stage...they were sitting around a table playing guittars, drums, and other basic instruments. I was told that this was done to make the customers feel closer to the musicians...like they were playing in a home...not distant and away on a stage...a VERY COOL PHILOSOPHY!
We returned to the house later and the father greeted me with pictures. They had taken a family trip in 1980 (I think) overland from Campinas up through the Amazon to Manus, down the Amazon River to Belem via Boat, and then drove along the huge coastline back to Campinas...took them over a
month. The pictures were incredible...the family (all much younger...Raquel and Valeria just children) with their van along VERY muddy roads, with indigenous people of the Amazon, and in many cool places...I was absolutely fascinated. I was told of times when they literally cut new roads through the jungle (they had pictures to prove it!)...were stuck in mud (on another trip, that the father had taken alone, he was stuck in one spot along the muddy road for 20 days...no kidding)...and many things...I was enthralled,
and appreciated him sharing these experiences with me.
Jan 11, 2000 (Tue)
Woke in Campinas...Raquel had to work today (evaluating exams...arrrrgggghhhh!!),but, Valeria had taken it upon herself to give me a tour of the area and to show me some of the neighboring villages. Now, I can´t emphasize enough that I didn´t expect any of this...I just showed up into their lives as a friend of a friend and here they are taking me to their places of business and study...and taking time away from work to show me around...I was deeply grateful (and felt somewhat guilty) to receive all of this hospitality.Valeria took me to the small, artsy fartsy city of Sousas (I´m sorry, I probably misspelled the name of this town...and can not find in my tourist books...but it was cool. We walked around the shops and visited a place that Valeria comes to take some art classes. The town is classic cobblestones and it very quaint. We drove around the countryside to another town (can´t remember the name) and had lunch there. (Note: It is in this town that I snapped an awesome photo of a dog sitting in a tractor seat...I think this photo is destined to be one of my favorites...will have to wait for development so see...who knows.). We drove among the hills to an observatory (which was unfortunately closed)...and went to a fishing pond. These fishing ponds are very popular in Brazil...people pay to go to private ponds and cast out a line and hope to catch some fish.
We also went to a Brazillian cemetary. She had heard that they were different from cememtaries in the USA...and she was right. They have a family burial spot or tomb...but they are buried ontop of achother...and the caskets are actually eventually removed to make more room for other family members...hard to describe...but it is a cemetary of large crypts/tombs that are for entire families...not individuals.
After that morbid sidetrip, we visited parents at their photo/clothing shop and I thanked them profusely for their incredible hospitality...we were going to go directly to the busstation, but when Valeria heard that I had not had pâo de queijo (bread and cheese food) we made a sidetrip to a bakery and had some. It was good...and we also walked through a supermarket looking at all the fruits and conversing in Portuguese and English (and me in some bad Spanish at time). Valeria had literally taken the entire day off from work to escort me around...I had asked her if she needed to go...but she kept telling me...no problem! I appreciated her time and efforts and was sad when I was finally dropped off at the busstation. I thanked Valeria for EVERYTHING and said goodbye and caught a bus from Campinas to Sao Paulo.
Rest of Jan 11, 2000 (Sao Paulo) will be updated in next Journal entry.